Comprehension and rtlogotype
How to Use Natural Language Stories

Take full advantage of the stories you write.

1. Read the story to your student.
You can start with as little as one sentence at a time.

Point to each word as you read it.

Use a natural tone of voice, not like a robot-- but read a  l-i-t-t-l-e  m-o-r-e 
s-l-o-w-l-y  than you usually speak..

You might pause . . . a bit . . . between phrases.

T-h-e   s-l-o-w-e-r   p-a-c-e . . .
. . .a-n-d   t-h-e   p-a-u-s-e-s . . .
. . . g-i-v-e   y-o-u-r   s-t-u-d-e-n-t . . .
. . . s-o-m-e   't-h-i-n-k - t-i-m-e'. . .
. . . t-o   n-o-t-i-c-e   t-h-i-n-g-s . . .
. . .a-b-o-u-t   t-h-e  p-r-i-n-t . . .
. . .s-h-e   i-s   h-e-a-r-i-n-g.

2. Then let your student read the sentence back to you.
Don’t worry that she’s just ‘remembering’ it; she’ll soon be reading more deeply, and more independently (see suggestions below).

Do teach your student to point to each word as she says it.

If one sentence at a time is too easy, read a whole section and have the student read it back.

Gently guide your student towards accuracy and fluency.
Give your student whatever help she needs.
Don’t let her struggle--help her to read the words easily.


If she’s stuck , you can give a hint: the first sound or first syllable of the word.
You can even give the whole word if necessary--just keep it moving fairly smoothly.

Or you can back up and re-read the section to give your student a ‘running start’--then help her to read the part where she got stuck.


If your student makes a small mistake . . .
Either model the correction--just re-read it correctly so that the last thing in her brain is the correct thing . . .
Or have the student repeat correctly. You might point to the error, and tell her "Say [correct word.]"


Here come the alien invaders.


Here comes the alien invaders.


Yes . . . [point]
[model it correctly]
The space ship is on a mission to Mars.
The space ship is in a . . .
. . . on a m-- . . .
. . . on a mish-- . . .
. . . The space ship is on a mish-- . . .
[give hints as needed]
on a mission to Mars.
Yes . . . [pointing]
The space ship is on a mission to Mars!
[re-read correctly;
keep the story flowing]

The ship sees the aliens coming.
The space ship sees the aliens coming.
Yes . . . [pointing]
Say 'The
ship sees'
[have student repeat correctly
The ship sees the aliens coming.


The whole goal is to have a story that the student has learned to read easily, fluently.
Two stories. Five stories. Twelve stories. A whole book of stories.

The help you are giving to your student is known as 'scaffolding' or 'structure.'
Don’t worry that your student will never learn if you give this help as needed.

We learn what we do.
When we get the 'right answers,' with whatever help, we learn to get the 'right answers.'

Trust in the process of accurate rehearsal
to teach accurate reading.
Trust in the process of easy rehearsal
to prepare your student for the next level of independence.

So remember what the extra help, the structure, is for; and use as much as your student needs.


Don’t give structure your student does not need.
Sometimes it is clear that your student needs ‘think time’ instead of help.

On the other hand, sometimes it is clear that she will not get the word with more time.

As you work with your student, you will learn when to wait . . . and when to help.

Just as the scaffolding on a building is removed when that part of the building is finished, you reduce the structure you are giving as your student succeeds without it.


More ways you can rehearse a story:

Fill-in-the-blank (or ‘Popcorn Reading’): Start reading the sentence to your student.

Then stop reading and let your student fill in the next word. Then you finish reading the sentence.

Keep reading the story . . . and stop every now and then.

The student has to follow along with you in order to know what word comes next when you stop.

It will be easiest for your student to fill in the important words at or near the end of the sentence.

For example, Teacher points and reads:
"The space ship is on a mission to . . . "

Student fills in:

The words within the sentence may be more difficult for your student to fill in.
"The ship ____ . . . "

"sees . . ."

". . . the aliens coming."


Trade-Off : You read a sentence or phrase, and your student reads the next one. Continue trading through the story.

Search Party: Find a word that is repeated several times in the story.

Your student points to all the examples of that word, in order, repeating the word each time she points to it.

You can keep score: Your student gets points for ‘hits’ and you get points for any examples she ‘misses’.

You Be the Teacher: You read a sentence, pointing to each word but making one or more errors. Your student corrects your errors. (Or else you ‘got away with it!’)

Sound Search-Party: Look for examples of familiar Phonics letter-sounds or patterns in the story.

You might add example words to the student’s Phonics notebook.

Flash Card Games: Make flash cards of some of the Jiffy Words from a story, and play Memory Match, Go Fish, Old Maid, race with a stopwatch, board games or other games with your student.
For details, see Rapid Naming here at The Reading Treehouse.

Search & Say: Drill a Jiffy Word from the story. For details about Search & Say, see Walls of Words here at The Reading Treehouse.


Repetition counts!
Collect stories into a binder, adding each new one to the front of the book.

Rehearse the stories on different days, making the job easy for your student so that she is practicing accurately.


3. Once your student can read it easily, look for ‘authentic reasons to repeat’ the story.
To recall a certain detail

To read the story to another person--in person or on the phone

To make a tape recording of the story. Try various voices.

To count the number of times a certain word appears in the story.

To time how quickly your student reads a familiar story (deduct one second for any boo-boo, to encourage accurate practice). The challenge: How many tries does it take to achieve a new 'personal best?'

Print the story again, in a different color or with a different font, and read the new 'version.'


Seven independent repetitions of the same story is not too many.
Watch confidence, ease, naming and vocal expression grow!

Short Cut Through the Treehouse ~ The Whole Treehouse

More on this topic:
Strong Tree, Solid Treehouse